Legendary AFL player and coach Leigh Matthews has forced the judges of The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame to break with years of tradition and nominate him for an incident which occurred on the field of play.
The Frownlow Medal is awarded to the player whose off-field demeanour epitomises the values of the modern day footballer and draws attention to the status of footballers as role models to young Australians. It covers Australia’s four major football codes; the National Rugby League (NRL), Australian Football League (AFL), the A-League (Football) and Rugby Union’s Super Rugby competition. NRL player Shaun Kenny-Dowall won the inaugural medal in 2015 while NRL star Jarryd Hayne is the most recent recipient.
The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame honours former players and players who received media attention in previous seasons, for similarly scandalous behaviour, and its inductees include Ben Cousins and Julian O’Neill.
Football heroes typically receive nominations for drunken brawls, public urination, assault, domestic violence, social media mishaps, imprisonment, drug offences or drink driving- all of which occur off the field of play.
Matthews earned his nomination, however, because the punch which broke the jaw of Geelong’s Neville Bruns in 1985 was deemed so severe that he was charged with ‘assault causing grievous bodily harm’.
The punch and the police charge saw Matthews de-registered from Hawthorn for four matches and earned him the nickname ‘Lethal’.
Matthews went on to forge a hugely successful career as a coach with Collingwood and Brisbane in the AFL and won premierships with both teams. He was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame but he is yet to be inducted into The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame.
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